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And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Dodgers 6, Cardinals 0: We got guys working overtime right now to come up with new adjectives for Clayton Kershaw, because we’ve burnt the hell through our entire 2014 supply already. The best pitcher in baseball struck out 13 Cardinals in seven shutout innings today, reducing his ERA to 2.04 and pushing his K/BB ratio to 107/11 in 79.1 innings. He’s currently rolling with a 28-inning scoreless streak. Andre Ethier hit a three-run homer, but man, it’s not like Kershaw even needed the help.

Mariners 3, Indians 0: Kershaw isn’t the only ace challenging our ability to describe his greatness this year. Felix Hernandez has always been amazing, but he’s on a whole new level in 2014. For one thing, having ten wins at the halfway point of a season is something different for him. The earliest he’s ever notched his 10th win was in 2009 when he did it on July 17. That year he won 19. This year he’s 10-2 with a 2.10 ERA with a K/BB ratio of 137/22 in 128.1 innings. That after the eight innings of one-hit ball he threw while striking out nine Indians today.

Reds 4, Giants 0: Homer Bailey isn’t quite the pitcher Kershaw and Hernandez are, but he’s pretty damn good. Yesterday he took a no-hitter into the seventh and finished with a three-hit shutout of the reeling San Francisco Giants. The reeling San Francisco Giants who now find themselves in a mathematical tie with the Dodgers in the NL West, one game better in the loss column, but spinning out of control all the same. They’ve dropped six of seven.

Rockies 10, Brewers 4: Last Sunday the Rockies were a laughing stock after a weekend in which they threw the ball all over the place and literally fell down on the basepaths. On this Sunday they were the beneficiaries of the other team playing less-than-Little-League-quality defense to let the Rockies stroll around the bases unmolested. Not that they were perfect: Jorge De La Rosa threw three wild pitches and hit a batter. He still got the win, though. It was the Rockies first win against the Brewers all season. It was also their last game against the Brewers all season.

Twins 3, Rangers 2: Kendrys Morales hit an RBI double to break a 2-2- tie in the ninth. They shifted right against the lefty Morales, and the lefty Morales slapped it down the left field line. Between having to run a long way to get back to that shift-beating ball, it took a weird bounce off the wall too, allowing the go-ahead and ultimately winning run score.

Pirates 5, Mets 2: Former Met Ike Davis hit a two-run single in the first off Bartolo Colon and the Pirates took a 5-0 lead after four. Pedro Alvarez had a home and an RBI double. Colon had one idea about why the Pirates were able to get to him:

“I just think that because I’ve already gone against them once they probably prepared so they knew what I was coming with. They just had the time to prepare to play against me.”

Bartolo, you’ve been pitching in the bigs since the Clinton Administration. Everyone has had a chance to see you.

Astros 6, Tigers 4: Jose Altuve is on fire. Three hits and two stolen bases today and he went 9 for 14 in the series against Detroit. He’s stolen two bases in four straight games and 10 overall in his last six. He’s batting .347 on the year.

Braves 3, Phillies 2: A four game sweep. And, for some reason, none of the Philly people who tweeted smack at me when the Phillies took three in a row from the Braves a couple of weeks ago tweeted at me during this series. Huh. This was the first four-game sweep in Philadelphia by the Braves since Sept. 24-27, 1964. That was at the tail end of that historic collapse by Philly that season. Which, hey, that may be bad, but at least they had some success from which to collapse then.

Royals 5, Angels 4: Lorenzo Cain had four hits, including three doubles, and drove in two. Omar Infante drove in the winning run in the ninth, but this game shoulda gone extras. Before Infante’s big hit Erik Aybar and Howie Kendrick muffed what should’ve been an inning-ending double play, allowing the guy who scored the winning run to move into scoring position. “You can’t assume the double—OW!”  Sorry, had to smack that cliche-spewing voice in my head across the back of the neck.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $30,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Monday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on MondayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Athletics 4, Marlins 3: Nate Freiman was called up from Sacramento, flew across country, barely slept and then hit a three-run homer in his 2014 debut. Not bad. Also not bad: The A’s winning all three games in Miami by coming from behind.  Four wins in a row overall. Oakland is at its exact halfway point of the 2014 season and has 51 wins.

Rays 12, Orioles 7: Two homers for Matt Joyce, who had five hits and four RBI in all. The Rays had five homers and six doubles in this one. That’s, like, a month’s output for that offense.

White Sox 4, Blue Jays 0: Jose Quintana had seven shutout innings. That creep can roll, man. Jose Abreu had an RBI single to extend his hitting streak to 14 games.

Padres 2, Diamondbacks 1:  Odrisamer Despaigne with his second start and, once again, a stingy performance and a win. It’s junk and funk and angles and smoke and mirrors, but who cares? All of those things are really cool.

Red Sox 8, Yankees 5: Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz each drove in three, Ortiz on the power of his 450th career home run. The Red Sox take two of three from their rivals, who themselves have lost six of eight.

Who Should win the Rookie of the Year Awards? Who Will?

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Corey Seager #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to his three run homerun for a 6-0 lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. Next up: The Rookie of the Year Awards

This is a whole heck of a lot easier than the MVP and Cy Young Awards, that’s for sure. It’s a two horse race in the AL and a one-horse race in the NL.

Who should win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

It seemed like Tigers starter Michael Fulmer would be the no-brainer choice for a good long while, as his low ERA and solid performance helped carry the Tigers when their starting pitching wasn’t doing them any favors. But then the Yankees called up catcher Gary Sanchez at the beginning of August and all he’s done since then is hit .303/.378/.672 with an astonishing 20 homers in his first 51 games. Fulmer has continued to be solid — he’s just short of qualifying for the ERA title, but does have the league’s lowest ERA at 3.06 — but Sanchez has been spectacular.

The MVP and Cy Young Award require full season contributions. Not everyone takes the Rookie of the Year Award quite as seriously, it seems, and are thus more willing to entertain smaller samples of excellence over large samples of solid work when it comes to the award. That’s how Bill and I think about it anyway, giving the nod to Sanchez’s historic two-month run. Ashley, however, favors Fulmer’s larger volume of work. You can’t really go wrong with either choice:

Craig: Sanchez
Bill: Sanchez
Ashley: Fulmer

Who will win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

Hard call. I have no idea what voters will do on that quantity/quality calculation. I’ll guess Fulmer, but it’s just a guess. I could just as easily see Sanchez given some quasi-MVP credit for helping the Yankees remain relevant after the trade deadline and throw it his way.

 

Who should win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If you say anyone other than Corey Seager, and his .311/.369/.519 26 homer batting line, the state has authorized me to have you taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point your competence to reenter society will be gauged. But there is ice cream there.

Craig: Seager
Bill: Seager
Ashley: Seager

 

Who will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If any BBWAA voter lists anyone other than Corey Seager at the top of his or her Rookie of the Year ballot, the state has authorized me to have them taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point their competence to reenter society will be gauged. They will not, however, be allowed to have any ice cream because, really, they should know better. They’re professionals.

Jeremy Giambi vs. David Ortiz

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The 2002 Red Sox won 93 games, only to finish 10 games behind the Yankees in the AL West and six back of the lone wild card. They named Theo Epstein the GM that November and allowed him to begin reshaping the team, then led by Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

The Red Sox didn’t make any big splashes that winter. Their biggest free agent signing was Ramiro Mendoza, who got $6.5 million for two years. They also signed Mike Timlin and Bill Mueller (who played behind Shea Hillenbrand at third initially). They traded for Todd Walker. They stole Bronson Arroyo off waivers.

What Epstein did totally overhaul was a first base-DH situation that held the team back the previous season. 2002 trade deadline pickup Cliff Floyd exited in free agency, as did disappointments Tony Clark and Jose Offerman.

Brought in was a three-headed monster of underappreciated, high-OBP, Moneyball-type players. First, the Red Sox traded Josh Hancock to the Phillies for Jeremy Giambi, who had just hit .244/.435/.538 in 156 at-bats after coming over from the A’s at midseason. He hit .272/.402/.475 in 684 at-bats total between 2001 and 2002, and he looked like he was still very much in his prime at age 28.

The day after the Giambi trade, the Twins made the move to release David Ortiz. No one pounced, though, and Ortiz remained unsigned for a month before joining the Boston on a one-year, $1.25 million contract. Ortiz, who was entering his age-27 season, hit .272/.339/.500 in 412 at-bats for the Twins in 2002.

While that was going on, the Red Sox were working to bring in Kevin Millar for first base. Millar hit .306/.366/.509 in 438 at-bats for the Marlins in 2002 and was even better the previous season, but he was a poor outfielder and third baseman and the team already had Derrek Lee at first base. So, the Marlins, rather than trade Millar for a player, sold him to Japan for some much-preferred cash. Millar, not realizing that he was a desired commodity around the league, went along with the plan. That’s when the Red Sox broke an unwritten rule and claimed Millar off waivers. It turned into a long ordeal, but the Red Sox were finally able to land Millar in February by buying him from the Marlins.

I remember at the time being most excited about the Giambi acquisition. He couldn’t play defense and he had gotten himself exiled by the A’s for some transgression the previous year, but he looked like an awesome offensive force with his terrific power and ridiculous walk rate. Ortiz was certainly worth taking the chance on, too, but I thought Giambi would be better and leave Ortiz with little to do.

Indeed, Giambi started over Ortiz on Opening Day. However, both got off to lousy starts and Giambi’s playing time quickly diminished. Giambi finished April at .125/.288/.292 in 60 plate appearances, starting only once in the final week of the month. Ortiz came in at .212/.311/.346 in 61 plate appearances.

Both players found their strokes at the beginning of May. For Giambi, though, it amounted to all of about two weeks of success. He peaked with an .828 OPS on May 16. Ortiz’s build was slower, but it lasted. He had a .942 OPS in May, a .961 OPS in June, a .987 OPS in July and a 1.097 OPS in August before plummeting all of the way to .977 in September. He finished 5th in the AL MVP balloting despite playing about half the time the first two months.

Giambi, finding himself more starved for at-bats after Ortiz heated up, landed on the DL in late June with a bad shoulder. At the time, it looked like it might have been a made-up injury to get him playing time in the minors for a spell. It wasn’t. He returned a few weeks later, but he still wasn’t right. He made his last appearance on Aug. 1, going 0-for-3 against the Orioles. He landed back on the DL and then underwent surgery to repair damage in his labrum and rotator cuff.

As it turned out, Giambi never played in the majors again. As he was trying to come back from the shoulder surgery the next spring, he developed back problems. He played in 17 minor league games with the Dodgers in 2004 and nine with the White Sox in 2005. That was it for him, and he was done at 30 years old. In early 2005, he admitted to using BALCO-provided steroids and said that he regretted it. The strength training likely played roles in both his emergence and his downfall, given the breakdown of his body.

Things worked out a little differently for Ortiz…

Ortiz through 2002 (age 26): .266/.348/.461, 108 OPS+ in 1,693 PA
Giambi through 2002 (age 27): .269/.381/.437, 114 OPS+ in 1,549 PA

Ortiz after 2002: .290/.386/.570, 148 OPS+ in 8,387 PA
Giambi after 2002: .197/.342/.354, 81 OPS+ in 156 PA

And those 2003 Red Sox? Well, they won 95 games, which was good enough for the wild card this time. Still, they lost to the Yankees in seven games in the ALCS. They were still one year away.